Anne Weyman: u3a dynamo

1 Oct

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Islington University of the Third Age (iu3a) has been giving retired and semi-retired Islingtonians plenty to think about and do since it was started a year ago. To help celebrate its first birthday iu3a chair, Anne Weyman, talks about the joys of iu3a – and her many memories of life just off Upper Street.  Interview by Nicola Baird

Anne Weyman

Anne Weyman

There has been a U3A in north London for more than 20 years but when there was pressure last year (2013) to form a group in Islington, Anne Weyman said she’d help. “Islington used to be covered by North London u3a but meetings were mostly in Finchley which meant not many people from Islington were members. As you get older you may find you don’t want to travel as much. Your focus becomes more local, so I felt it was really important to develop a local u3a,” she explains. The project has been a success. There are already 300 members who can attend monthly meetings with a speaker or a range of groups focusing on subjects such as music, theatre, philosophy, craft, scrabble and exploring London.


NEWS FLASH – to celebrate islingtonfacesblog’s 100th interview there will be a live event at King’s Head Theatre on Saturday 25 October 2014, from 3-5pm.

Expect to meet local royalty – the Pearly King of Finsbury; a stargazer from Highbury Fields; two stunning local musicians; a woman who’s set up a unique language cafe at Archway, the Mayor of Islington plus others to be confirmed.

This will be a ticketed event to fundraise for OperaUpClose. Details next week. But please SAVE THE DATE. islingtonfacesblog is delighted that Barnaby’s hairdressing salon at Highbury Barn is sponsoring the show.


Anne’s just back from her iu3a French conversation group and also enjoys the book group and longer walks of around 10 miles. “Being part of iu3a is great fun. In a book group or on a long walk you get to know someone in a broader way than a neighbour or colleague. For retired people it is so easy to become isolated, but iu3a is a community for the lively-minded who like to share and learn from each other. It’s not all academic and as with being at university you meet people in different situations and that’s why you can get to know them so well.”


Le Mercury was set up by a Yugoslavian restaurauter, Peter Ilic, who tried to change the way restaurants price. Le Mercury has recently opened a second branch in Upper Street.

What’s changed in Islington since you moved here in 1978?

  • Attitude My parents – who lived in East Finchley – were very sniffy when we moved from a flat in Marylebone to Islington. But when my father died in 1997 our house was worth more than his.

  • In 1789 this was the site of the Gun pub. It was rebuilt in 1834 (when the address was 18 Pierpoint Row) and renamed the Duke of Sussex in honour of George III's sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederic (1773-1845) from whom Frederick's takes its name. You can still see the original staircase and two murals on the external brickwork.

    Frederick’s is the oldest restaurant in Islington’s Camden Passage.

    Food When Chris and I moved here in 1978 Frederick’s and Carrier’s existed in Camden Passage. People came from the City to eat there. On Upper Street there was just the Roxy Diner. Then Le Mercury came, opened by Peter Ilic* in 1987 and we used to go there a lot. One day I came home and there were all these loaves of bread on our doorstep – they were meant to have been delivered to the Mercury! 140a Upper Street, N1

  • Politics We watched the fight on the council between labour’s old guard and the newcomers. It was a battle between an old style labour council and a more radical approach. In the end the newcomers won. One important outcome was the renovation of old houses instead of knocking them down and building large estates.

  • Schools When I had my daughter, Islington’s schools weren’t good. At her primary school by the time she was 7, 11 children had left her class. Many people sent their children to state schools in other boroughs or to private schools. But they did mix a lot. My daughter met a variety of children at swimming classes at Cally pool and theatre lessons with the brilliant teacher Anna Scher.

  • Shops regenerate: this used to be a DIY shop - now it's a glam hair salon.

    Shops regenerate: Sano, 62 Cross Street used to be a DIY shop – now it’s a glam hair salon.

    Shops There used to be a dress shop on Upper Street selling in pounds, shilling and pence! We were sorry when Arthur Wick’s hardware shop (he was a Labour GLC councillor) closed on Cross Street. It sold everything you could possibly want and he had a lovely cat which my daughter and husband liked to pop in to see on Saturday mornings. After some years when similar shops have been disappearing we now have two DIY shops on Upper Street. Jones Brothers on Holloway Road was a much loved local amenity and its closure was a great blow

  • Cars We don’t have a car anymore but when we had two, I used to get mine repaired at a garage off Amwell Street. (Here’s the link to islington faces blog’s interview with Miles Brown who runs this garage.)



Anne adds that iu3a also widens your circle of friends. “When I go out in Islington I find I have to leave more time as I keep meeting people I know.”

Anne Weyman’s portrait by Johnny Jonas, who lives in Devon, was a gift from her husband, Chris.

Anne Weyman’s portrait by Johnny Jonas, who lives in Devon, was a gift from her husband, Chris.

Anne, now 71, was given an OBE in 2000, and an honorary degree in 2005 which reflect her work over 30 years in the not-for-profit sector – for 12 of them as Chief Executive of FPA (Family Planning Association). It is clear the intellectual stimulus of iu3a makes her retirement more social, far busier and enriching. It may also help people stay in the borough.

“Living in the heart of Islington there’s a tendency to go southwards into town so I didn’t know the north of the borough well at all. Now I don’t just know Islington’s boundary but I’ve walked most of the 16 miles with a group of iu3a walkers to raise money during Islington Giving week in June.

Anne and her husband Chris moved into the house they live in now, just off Upper Street, back in 1978 when the area was a bit run down. “The people who lived in the house before us were both social workers who had brought up a large family and were retiring.

At that time a lot of traditional Islington residents aspired to sell their homes and better themselves by moving into the suburbs,” explains Anne. “But there was criticism of people like us coming in saying we were ‘gentrifying’ and ‘destroying the local community’. It’s similar in a way to what’s happening now with the increase in house prices affecting who can afford to move here.

After nearly 40 years Anne is still pleased to have made that move to Islington. “It’s been great to live here and I love the house. It would be very difficult to leave it and go somewhere else.”


Pasha serves Turkish food at 301 Upper Street, N1.

Where do you like going in Islington now?

  • I did a local walk with iu3a in Clerkenwell – there are lovely places and little gardens associated with the Order of St John I’d never seen before.

  • I love Upper Street. I walk down it almost every day. I also like Camden Passage. Both have unusual shops and interesting people.

  • I enjoy going to the Almeida and the Park Theatre (at Finsbury Park) and the pub theatres.

  • Islington is short of open space so I do like Highbury Fields and New River Walk. I also like walking to Kings Cross through Barnsbury Park and along the canal. You wouldn’t think you were in the middle of London.

  • We go to Frederick’s for celebratory outings and their special set lunch is always excellent value. In the summer, it’s a delight to eat in their garden. I like The Gem at 265 Upper Street, which has Turkish and Kurdish food. The Pasha is also a favourite – the ladies who own it have been there for years.

  • I like the variety of people in Islington, living very different lives side-by-side, and that they are community minded, interested in what’s going on and down to earth.

When Anne’s not busy with iu3a commitments, or enjoying Upper Street’s neighbourliness she is Vice Chair of Islington Clinical Commissioning Group and also offers mentoring for senior and chief executives to help develop any missing skills and to offer practical advice on work-life balance. With a career encompassing Amnesty International, National Children’s Bureau and FPA you are sure to be in good hands.

  • iu3a (islington university of the third age) is for people who are retired or semi-retired. Check
  • Come to the iu3a open day – for cake to be cut by Clive Anderson and to find out about the groups and monthly talks – on Monday 6 October from 2.30-4.30pm at Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, N7 6AP, just next to Waitrose. Monthly meetings are also held there.
  • More about Anne Weyman at her website.

Over to you
Would you like to nominate someone to be interviewed? Or would you like to write a guest post for this blog? if the answer is yes for either please email

If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow (see menu top right). @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola




One Response to “Anne Weyman: u3a dynamo”

  1. nicola baird blogs October 2, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    From twitter/email:
    Hotblack Desiato: This lady is a true inspiration!

    Anne: “Thank you for giving iu3a such excellent publicity.”

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